Glasgow based, Feral Arts, aka Jill Smith and Kathryn Boyle, ‘support artists who make cross artform work and champion makers who explore new performance languages’ (Feral, 2020).
Financial support from the British Council /Creative Scotland partnership open call in 2019, enabled Feral to lead an artistic exchange and residency project with Oceanallover and European partners, Spoffin Festival and Misiconi in the Netherlands.
Intent on sharing knowledge around the creation of site-specific work and international models for large scale, participatory outdoor performance, the residency primarily centered on inclusive / integrated practice.
Feral and Spoffin hosted an intensive residency to allow Scottish physical theatre company Oceanallover to collaborate with Dutch inclusive dance organisation Misiconi. Disabled and non-disabled artists explored new approaches together and co-created a performance piece fusing celebratory dance, live music and sculptural costume design ‘to animate and enliven the streets of Amersfoot’ (Jill Smith, April 2020).
The project allowed Feral to champion Oceanallover and the wider Scottish street arts scene in an international context. It also allowed Feral to make new connections through networking with the international outdoor arts sector and learn about different approaches to touring and commissioning outdoor performance across Europe.
A significant success, and one of particular resonance in current times, is that of ‘creating a model where the artistic directors of Misiconi (Joop Oonk) and Oceanallover (Alex Rigg) could work together remotely to create new material and a devising framework for the performers to slot into once on the ground in Amersfoort’ (Jill Smith, April 2020).
For Oceanallover the opportunity to explore Misiconi’s devising process and approach to movement with both disabled and non-disabled performers provided ‘invaluable insight into creating work with an inclusive cast’ (Jill Smith, April 2020).
Oceanallover performer Lewis Sherlock reflects on the experience:
'Spoffin Festival was a brilliant opportunity for Oceanallover and us as individuals; I felt there was a lot to be learnt from collaborating with Misiconi Dance Theatre and was glad of the residency time to really explore what that meant for both companies individually and together … both companies adapted their practices to incorporate a wide range of abilities, performance styles and challenges whilst managing to create a strong performance that visibly affected and intrigued the audiences.'
The project was not without access challenges though, including a lack of infrastructure in Amersfoot to accommodate wheelchair users. Jill Smith comments on some of the challenges encountered:
‘It was tricky to find suitable accommodation and changing facilities for the performances which highlighted to us the many challenges faced by disabled artists working in the outdoor arts sector. It was also necessary to recalibrate the length and intensity of each residency day to enable the artists the necessary recovery and rest time during the development process.’
One of Misiconi’s dancers, Jacqueline van Kuilenburg, kept a blog throughout the project which provides a vital insight into her experiences and the particular challenges she faces as a dancer living with Ehlers Danloss Syndrome. The blog (in Dutch and English) can be read here and includes a fun, engaging video.
Feral hope to collaborate with Spoffin Festival in the future to host more outdoor arts residency opportunities that develop the framework devised through this funded project.